Phil Bryant

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Phil Bryant
64th Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 10, 2012 – January 14, 2020
LieutenantTate Reeves
Preceded byHaley Barbour
Succeeded byTate Reeves
31st Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
In office
January 10, 2008 – January 10, 2012
GovernorHaley Barbour
Preceded byAmy Tuck
Succeeded byTate Reeves
40th Auditor of Mississippi
In office
November 1996 – January 10, 2008
GovernorKirk Fordice
Ronnie Musgrove
Haley Barbour
Preceded bySteve Patterson
Succeeded byStacey Pickering
Member of the
Mississippi House of Representatives
from Hinds County
In office
Personal details
Dewey Phillip Bryant

(1954-12-09) December 9, 1954 (age 69)
Moorhead, Mississippi, U.S.
Political partyRepublican
Deborah Hays
(m. 1976)
EducationHinds Community College
University of Southern Mississippi (BA)
Mississippi College (MA)

Dewey Phillip Bryant (born December 9, 1954) is an American politician who served as the 64th governor of Mississippi from 2012 to 2020.[1][2] A member of the Republican Party, he was the 31st lieutenant governor of Mississippi from 2008 to 2012 and 40th state auditor of Mississippi from 1996 to 2008. Bryant was elected governor in 2011, defeating the Democratic nominee Mayor Johnny DuPree of Hattiesburg. He was re-elected in 2015, defeating Democratic nominee Robert Gray.

Early life and education[edit]

Bryant was born in Moorhead in Sunflower County in the Mississippi Delta. He is the son of Dewey C., a diesel mechanic,[3] and Estelle R. Bryant, a mother who stayed home with her three boys. Bryant's family moved to the capital of Jackson, where his father worked for Jackson Mack Sales[4] and was later Service Manager there.

Dewey Phillip Bryant attended Council McCluer High School his junior and senior years.

Bryant studied first at Hinds Community College and received a bachelor's degree in criminal justice from the University of Southern Mississippi and a master's degree in political science from Mississippi College in Clinton. He also received an Honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from Mississippi College, where he served as an adjunct professor teaching Mississippi political history, both before and during his first term as governor.

Political career[edit]

Bryant speaking with a constituent, 2008

Prior to entering government public service, Bryant was a deputy sheriff in Hinds County from 1976 to 1981; he worked undercover in drug law enforcement[5] and also worked as an insurance claims investigator.[6] After his election to the Mississippi House of Representatives, Bryant served as Vice Chairman of the House Insurance Committee. Notably, he sponsored the Capital Gains Tax Cut Act of 1992.

Bryant was appointed to serve as State Auditor by Governor Kirk Fordice following the resignation of Steve Patterson. He was sworn in on November 1, 1996. Bryant was subsequently elected to a full term as auditor in 1999 and reelected in 2003.[7] That year he convinced the Mississippi State Legislature to grant law enforcement officers in the auditor's office's investigative division full powers of arrest.[8]

In 2007, he was elected Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi, defeating the Democratic Party candidate, State Representative Jamie Franks.

In 2011, Bryant was elected Governor of Mississippi, defeating the Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree.

After leaving public office in 2019, Bryant became a founding member of BSS Global, a consulting firm.[9]

Governor of Mississippi[edit]

2011 election[edit]

Bryant won the Republican primary in the gubernatorial election in 2011. He defeated Democratic nominee Johnny DuPree on November 8, with 60.98 percent of the vote compared to DuPree's 39.2 percent.[10]

First term[edit]

On January 10, 2012, Bryant was sworn in as the 64th Governor of Mississippi. Former Republican State Chairman Jim Herring, a lawyer from Canton, headed the transition team.[11] Once inaugurated, Bryant signed into law a bill requiring doctors at abortion clinics to have admitting privileges at local hospitals in an attempt to "end abortion in Mississippi". At the time, the state had a single abortion clinic, served only by out-of-state doctors who lacked in-state admitting privileges.[12]

2015 re-election[edit]

Bryant speaking at the Louisiana Republican Party "Geaux Vote" rally in December 2016

Governor Bryant ran for re-election in 2015, facing off against Mitch Young in the Republican primary, carrying 91.7 percent of the vote.[13] On November 5, Bryant faced the Democratic nominee, truck driver Robert Gray, winning with 66.6 percent of the vote.[14] Because Mississippi is one of the eight U.S. states that have a two-term lifetime limit, he was ineligible to seek a third term in the 2019 gubernatorial election.

Second term[edit]

In 2015, Phil Bryant refused to support legislation to change the flag of Mississippi to remove the Confederate battle saltire, even though some members of his party, such as House Speaker Philip Gunn, publicly said the flag needed to change so that it could represent all Mississippians. Bryant took the position that voters should make the decision on the state flag.[citation needed]

On April 5, 2016, Bryant signed House Bill 1523, the HB-1523, which allows government employees and private businesses to cite religious beliefs to deny services to same-sex couples seeking a marriage license.[15] The governor said on Twitter that HB-1523, "merely reinforces the rights which currently exist to the exercise of religious freedom as stated in the First Amendment to the U.S. Constitution."[16]

Bryant announced on February 21, 2017, that he would make emergency budget cuts to most state agency budgets for the third time in the current fiscal year, having made similar cuts in the previous year because of the lack of projected revenue.[17]

Bryant signed a law scheduled to go into effect on July 1, 2019, that would ban abortions later than six weeks of pregnancy. The Center for Reproductive Rights in Jackson challenged the law. Because of his decision finding the prior less restrictive "15-week" law in the Currier case to be unconstitutional, Southern District of Mississippi Judge Carlton Reeves began his decision by referencing a prior law Bryant had signed and which Reeves had struck down in 2018. Judge Reeves wrote, "Here we go again. Mississippi has passed another law banning abortions prior to viability."[18] He inquired, "Doesn't it boil down to six is less than fifteen?", adding that the new law "smacks of defiance to this court." Reeves noted that although there were exceptions for situations where the mother's life or health is endangered should pregnancy be taken to term, the law does not allow for exceptions in the cases of pregnancies resulting from rape or incest.[19]

In January 2019, Bryant said he supported a bill to expand the use of civil forfeiture (the practice of seizing the property of individuals suspected of crimes even if they are not indicted or found guilty in court) so that assets valued up to $20,000 could be seized by law enforcement without the forfeiture going before a judge.[20][21] Under the bill, if the owner of the assets does not contest the forfeiture, the owner loses all right to it, and could not contest it before a judge. Nick Sibilla of the Institute for Justice notes that almost half of all asset seizures are valued at under $1,000, yet the filing fees associated with contesting a forfeiture can cost upwards of $1,500, and that fees associated with hiring an attorney add to the financial burden of the owner.[22]

Investigative reporting during Bryant's second term that looked into Mississippi statewide public officials' misuse of political campaign funds showed that Bryant had not made payments to himself or utilized campaign credit cards for unrelated personal spending, and since 2012 had spent $2.6 million on his campaign with almost as much left over.[23] The campaign fund was closed out with the majority of funds going to a political action committee, Imagine Mississippi PAC.[24]

Welfare Funds Scandal[edit]

In January 2023, it was announced that Phil Bryant was a potential target in the ongoing Mississippi welfare funds scandal where over $77 million funds were misappropriated or stolen. The previous director of Mississippi's welfare agency, John Davis, who admitted to being involved and is currently working with authorities, was appointed by Phil Bryant. An attorney said, “John Davis knows of the extent of personal involvement of former Governor Bryant and Governor (Tate) Reeves and the massive waste of taxpayer money,” but said that Davis was under direction from the FBI to remain silent. The investigation into Bryant's culpability and involvement is ongoing.[25]

Electoral history[edit]

1999 Mississippi State Auditor election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant (inc.) 396,245 56.85
Democratic Rod Nixon 300,729 43.15
2003 Mississippi State Auditor election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant (inc.) 587,212 76.31
Reform Billy Blackburn 182,292 23.69
2007 Mississippi Lieutenant-Governor Republican primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant 112,140 57.1
Republican Charlie Ross 84,110 42.9
2007 Mississippi Lieutenant-Governor election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant 431,747 58.57
Democratic Jamie Franks Jr. 305,409 41.43
2011 Mississippi Republican gubernatorial primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant 172,300 59.46
Republican Dave Dennis 74,546 25.72
Republican Ron Williams 25,555 8.82
Republican Hudson Holiday 13,761 4.75
Republican James Broadwater 3,626 1.25
2011 Mississippi gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant 544,851 60.98
Democratic Johnny DuPree 348,617 39.02
2015 Mississippi Republican gubernatorial primary election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant (inc.) 254,779 91.84
Republican Mitch Young 22,628 8.16
2015 Mississippi gubernatorial election
Party Candidate Votes %
Republican Phil Bryant (inc.) 476,697 66.38
Democratic Robert Gray 231,643 32.25
Reform Shawn O'Hara 9,845 1.37


  1. ^ "Phil Bryant (b. 1954)". The Mississippi Encyclopedia. Retrieved December 11, 2022.
  2. ^ "About Governor Bryant – Mississippi's 64th Governor, Phil Bryant". January 12, 2016. Archived from the original on May 3, 2016. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  3. ^ "Phil Bryant | About Phil". Archived from the original on August 1, 2011. Retrieved July 6, 2011.
  4. ^ 1971 Jackson City Directory.
  5. ^ Harrison, Tracey M., editor. (Winter 2017). "At Home with Mississippi's First Family" Beacon. Mississippi College website Retrieved February 18, 2017.
  6. ^ 1991 Jackson Suburban Directory.
  7. ^ Crockett 2007, p. xi.
  8. ^ Crockett 2007, p. 12.
  9. ^ "Former Miss. Governor Phil Bryant joins consulting firm".
  10. ^ "Phil Bryant's Biography – The Voter's Self Defense System". Vote Smart. Retrieved April 28, 2016.
  11. ^ "James H. Herring". Retrieved June 12, 2014.
  12. ^ Pickert, Kate (January 14, 2013). "What Choice?". Archived from the original on February 16, 2013. Retrieved August 28, 2019 – via
  13. ^ "2015 Republican Primary". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  14. ^ "2015 General Election". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  15. ^ "Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant gets bill allowing denial of services to gays". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  16. ^ "Mississippi governor signs law allowing service denial to gay couples". Retrieved April 5, 2016.
  17. ^ Pender, Geoff. (February 21, 2017). "Bryant forced to make more emergency budget cuts". Clarion Ledger website Retrieved February 22, 2017.
  18. ^ Sherman, Carter (May 24, 2019). ""Here We Go Again:" This Judge Blocked Another Mississippi Abortion Ban and He's Tired". Vice News. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  19. ^ Federal judge's questions point toward striking down Mississippi's latest abortion ban, "Clarion Ledger", Sarah Fowler, May 21, 2019. Retrieved June 2, 2019.
  20. ^ "Should it be this easy for Mississippi police to take property?". The Clarion Ledger. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  21. ^ Ulmer, Sarah (January 25, 2019). "Bryant backs bill to reinstate administrative forfeiture process". Mississippi Politics and News - Y'all Politics. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  22. ^ Sibilla, Nick. "Mississippi Bill Would Let Cops Forfeit Cash And Cars - Without The Owner Going To Court". Forbes. Retrieved February 2, 2019.
  23. ^ Mollie Bryant, Geoffrey Sender, & Kate Royals. (March 6, 2016). "Moving beyond honor system". Clarion Ledger. (Jackson). p. A14.
  24. ^ Nave, R. L. (January 31, 2017) "Bryant transfers campaign funds to PAC". Mississippi Today website Retrieved February 16, 2017.
  25. ^ "Attorneys drop hints that feds are eyeing former Gov. Phil Bryant in welfare investigation". Retrieved April 10, 2023.

Works cited[edit]

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Steven Patterson
Auditor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by Governor of Mississippi
Party political offices
Preceded by
Ryan Hood
Republican nominee for State Auditor of Mississippi
1999, 2003
Succeeded by
Preceded by Republican nominee for Lieutenant Governor of Mississippi
Succeeded by
Preceded by
Haley Barbour
Republican nominee for Governor of Mississippi
2011, 2015
U.S. order of precedence (ceremonial)
Preceded byas Former Governor Order of precedence of the United States
Within Mississippi
Succeeded byas Former Governor
Order of precedence of the United States
Outside Mississippi
Succeeded byas Former Governor